History of the Aussie Millions Poker Championship

Aussie Millions Poker Championship Logo, Casino Chips Floating
2020 will mark the 23rd year of the largest poker tournament in the Southern Hemisphere. While the name has changed over the years, the tournament is the Australian equivalent of the World Series of Poker.

The tournament is currently called the Aussie Millions Poker Championship (or just Aussie Millions) but has been known in the past as:

  • The Crown Australian Poker Championship
  • The Australian Poker Championship
The tournament was the brainchild of the Crown Casino and Entertainment Complex in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia as a way to promote their (at the time) new poker rooms.

The tournament gained momentum in 2005 when Joe Hachem traveled to the City of Las Vegas and became the first Aussie to win the Main Event of the World Series of Poker. The popularity of casino poker gaming and Texas hold’em is often attributed to Hachem, who’s considered among the best high-stakes cash game players in Australia.

Below, I’ll cover each of the previous editions of the event as we gear up for the 2020 Aussie Millions Poker Championship.

The 1998 Australian Poker Championship

The first Australian Poker Championship was held on July 26, 1998. It was a relatively small affair compared to future Aussie Millions events.

The tournament consisted of a $1,000 tournament buy-in. The game was a limit Texas hold’em tournament.

The games, unlike most tournaments in poker gaming, only sat eight players per table instead of the usual nine. This remains the same until the field is reduced to 36 players, at which point all tables are six-handed. This difference would remain throughout the years of the tournament as the tables at the Crown Melbourne are designed for eight players.

The event had 74 participants and a prize pool of 74,000 Australian dollars (about USD $53,000 at the time).

Despite being the first tournament of its kind in Australia, the event attracted international attention. Players from Australia, the United States, Slovakia, and the United Kingdom participated.

Stacks of Money, Casino Poker Cards Spread Out

The event was won by Aussie native Alex Horowitz. The top three money finishers were:

  • 1st Place: Alex Horowitz – $25,900
  • 2nd Place: Ken Eastwood – $14,800
  • 3rd Place: David Gorr – $7,400

The 1999 Australian Poker Championship

The second year of the event saw a marked increase in participants. The tournament saw 109 buy-ins.

The game changed in 1999. The 1998 game was a limit Texas hold’em game, but in 1999, it was changed to pot-limit Texas hold’em.

The tournament had a total prize pool of $109,000.

The first-place winner was Milo Nadalin of Australia.

The top three money finishers were:

  • 1st Place: Milo Nadalin – $38,150
  • 2nd Place: Adam Haman – $21,800
  • 3rd Place: Joe Meissner – $10,900

The 2000 Australian Poker Championship

The third annual event saw more changes that were meant to increase interest in the event.

The game was changed to no-limit Texas hold’em, and the buy-in was increased from $1,000 to $1,500.

Despite the attempt to increase the participation, it would take more time, as the number of buy-ins from the year before stayed the same in 2000. That total was 109.

The increase in the buy-in did dramatically increase the prize pool. The total prize pool in 2000 was $173,500.

The winner of the event was Australian Leo Boxell.

The top three finishers of the event and the prizes they won were:

  • 1st Place: Leo Boxell – $65,225
  • 2nd Place: Gerry Fitt – $32,700
  • 3rd Place: Gary Benson – $16,350

2001 Australian Poker Championship

In the fourth installment of the Aussie Millions, the event didn’t see any changes for the first time in its history. The event took place on August 24, 2001.

Poker Table with Casino Chips and Poker Cards, Gold Trophy, Stack of Money with Bills Flying Up

The game was no-limit Texas hold’em. It saw 101 buy-ins (down slightly from the previous year).

With a total prize pool of $151,500, Australian Sam Korman took the top prize.

The final top three finishers were:

  • 1st Place: Sam Korman – $53,025
  • 2nd Place: Eric Sclavos – $30,300
  • 3rd Place: James Potter – $15,150

2002 Australian Poker Championship

For the first time in the five-year history of the championship, the Crown Melbourne moved the event from its traditional July/August spot to January.

The reasoning behind this was to attract a larger international audience. The organizers received feedback that players felt that the World Series of Poker and the Australian Poker Championships were too close together.

With the collapse of Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker a decade before, it left an opening in the late January/early February timeframe that hadn’t been filled by another tournament.

The event was held on January 11th and 12th, 2002.

With the date change came other changes too. The buy-in for the event was raised to $5,000.

The rise in the buy-in led to fewer competitors. Only 66 people competed for the record prize pool of $330,000.

The tournament was won by Australian John Maver.

The top three finishers were:

  • 1st Place: John Maver – $150,000
  • 2nd Place: John Homann – $63,000
  • 3rd Place: David Szetho – $35,000

2003 Crown Australian Poker Championship

In 2003, the tournament continued to evolve. First, the name of the event was slightly tweaked, adding the Crown branding.

The next change was in the marketing of the tournament. The process started the previous year with the date change, but the marketing goal was to get more international players to increase the prestige and the prize pools. The date change helped with this, moving it several months prior to the World Series of Poker as opposed to a month or two after.

2003 Australian Millions Poker Winner Peter Costa, Winner Gold Sticker

Another change was that the buy-in was increased from $5,000 to $10,000.

The event took place on January 12, 2003.

The changes paid off as the participants almost doubled with 122 buy-ins.

The prize pool for the event broke the million-dollar mark for the first time and reached $1,220,000.

Players from Australia, the United Kingdom, and Austria, among other countries, participated.

For the first time in the history of the event, less than half of the top nine finishers were from Australia.

Another first involved the winner. For the first time in the history of the tournament, the winner was not Australian. Peter Costa from the UK won the event.

The top three finishers were:

  • 1st Place: Peter Costa – $394,870
  • 2nd Place: Leo Boxell – $225,640
  • 3rd Place: Harry Demetriou – $124,102

2004 Crown Australian Poker Championship

The success of the 2003 event led the Crown Melbourne to refrain from making any changes to the 2004 tournament.

It took place on January 15, 2004, and consisted of 133 buy-ins.

The total prize pool of the event was $1,330,000, and the tournament was won by Tony Bloom of the United Kingdom.

None of the top three finishers were from Australia, which was another first for the event.

The top three finishers and the prizes won were:

  • 1st Place: Tony Bloom – $426,500
  • 2nd Place: Jesse Jones – $243,700
  • 3rd Place: Kenna James – $134,000

2005 Crown Australian Poker Championship

2005 was a banner year for the event. More than half of all the players came from the northern hemisphere. Players from England, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, the United States, Sweden, the Netherlands, Canada, Italy, and Lebanon participated.

The event took place over three days, from January 18th through the 20th, 2005.

263 players paid the $10,000 buy-in to create the largest prize pool in the tournament’s history. The players vied for a pool of $2,630,000.

Poker Player Jamil Dia Sitting With Casino Chips in Front of Him, 1,000,000 Text

Australian Jamil Dia won the first prize. For the first time in the event’s history, the winner took home a seven-figure prize.

The top three finishers were:

  • 1st Place: Jamil Dia – $1,000,000
  • 2nd Place: Nike Simkin – $465,000
  • 3rd Place: George Mamacas – $250,000

2006 Crown Australian Poker Championship

With the explosive growth of the tournament and the success of Australia’s first WSOP winner Joe Hachem, Crown made some additions to the event. In addition to the Main Event, a second part of the tournament was introduced, the $100,000 No Limit Texas Hold’Em Challenge. This was winner take all and continues to be held each year with the Main Event. This was a turning point in the championship’s history as the event gained a reputation internationally as a “high roller” event.

The winner of the $100,000 No Limit Texas Hold’Em Challenge was Indonesia’s John Juanda. He took home $1 million for his efforts.

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The tournament increased from three to six days and was held from January 14th to January 19th, 2006.

The Main Event saw a record-smashing 418 entries to make for a $4,180,000 prize pool.

The winner of the Main Event was Australia’s Lee Nelson.

The top three finishers were:

  • 1st Place: Lee Nelson – $1,295,800
  • 2nd Place: Robert Neary – $689,700
  • 3rd Place: Nenad Medic – $376,200

2007 Crown Australian Poker Championship

The tenth Aussie Millions was held from January 14th to January 19th, 2007.

The $100,000 No Limit Texas Hold’Em Challenge saw American Erick Lindgren win the $1.8 million prize.

The Main Event saw another record-smashing 747 buy-ins for the event, bringing that year’s prize pool to $7,470,000.

Denmark’s Gus Hanson won the Main Event in a year that saw only one Australian finish in the top seven. It also marked the highest finish of a woman in the history of the event.

The top three finishers were:

  • 1st Prize: Gus Hansen – $1,500,000
  • 2nd Prize: Jimmy Fricke – $1,000,000
  • 3rd Prize: Andy Black – $700,000

2008 Crown Australian Poker Championship

From January 14th to January 19th, 2008, Crown held its eleventh Aussie Millions.

In the $100,000 No Limit Texas Hold’Em Challenge, American Howard Lederer beat out 25 other players to win the $2.5 million prize.

Poker Player Alexander Kostritsyn, Black Casino Poker Chips Stacked

In the Main Event, Russian Alexander Kostritsyn beat out the field of 780 players to win his portion of the $7,758,500 prize pool.

The top three finishers were:

  • 1st Place: Alexander Kostritsyn – $1,650,000
  • 2nd Place: Erik Seidel – $1,000,000
  • 3rd Place: Michael Chrisanthopoulos – $700,000

2009 Crown Australian Poker Championship

The 2009 event was held from January 19th through the 23rd.

The $100,000 No Limit Texas Hold’Em Challenge saw an Australian win for the first time. David Steicke defeated 23 others to win the $2.3 million prize.

681 players competed in the Main Event and generated a prize pool of $6,810,000.

Scott Stewart of Australia won the event.

The top money finishers were:

  • 1st Place: Stewart Scott – $2,000,000
  • 2nd Place: Peter Rho – $1,000,000
  • 3rd Place: Elliot Smith – $700,000

2010 Crown Australian Poker Championship

The 2010 event saw the tournament increase to seven days. It was held from January 24th to the 30th.

American Daniel Shak won the $100,000 Hold’Em tournament, outlasting 24 other players to win $2,400,000.

A prize pool of $7,460,000 was generated by the 746 entrants for the Main Event. Australian Tyron Krost won.

The top three money finishers were:

  • 1st Prize: Tyron Krost – $2,000,000
  • 2nd Prize: Frederik Jensen – $1,100,000
  • 3rd Prize: Sorel Mizzi – $715,000

2011 Crown Australian Poker Championship

In 2011, Crown added a third event to the tournament — the $250,000 Super High Roller No-Limit Texas Hold’Em Tournament. Like the $100,000, this was a winner take all event.

The winner of the $250,000 event was American Erik Seidel. He beat 20 other players to win $5 million.

The $100,000 tournament winner was the United Kingdom’s Sam Trickett. He outlasted the 38 other participants to win $3,800,000.

2011 Crown Australian Poker Champion, Confetti

The Main Event saw Australian David Gorr face a field of 721 and win his part of the $7,210,000 prize pool during the tournament held from January 23rd through the 29th.

The top three money finishers were:

  • 1st Place: David Gorr – $2,000,000
  • 2nd Place: James Keys – $1,035,000
  • 3rd Place: Jeff Rossiter – $700,000

2012 Crown Australian Poker Championship

Poker Hall of Famer Phil Ivey won the 2012 $250,000 Hold’Em tournament. His win over 16 others yielded him a $4 million prize.

American Dan Smith won the $100,000 event where 21 others failed to beat him for the $2,200,000 prize.

A $6,590,000 in prize pool was at stake in the Main Event. The 659 participants were outlasted by Aussie Oliver Speidel during the January 22nd through 28th event.

The top three finishers were:

  • 1st Place: Oliver Speidel – $1,600,000
  • 2nd Place: Kenneth Wong – $1,000,000
  • 3rd Place: Mile Krstanoski – $610,000

2013 Crown Australian Poker Championship

The UK’s Sam Trickett beat out 17 others to win the $4,500,000 prize in the $250,000 buy-in tournament.

Andrew Robl of the US won the $2,200,000 at stake in the 22-player, $100,000 tournament.

The Main Event fielded 629 players over the January 27th through February 2nd event. Malaysia’s Mervin Chan took the top prize in the event boasting a prize pool of $6,290,000.

The top three money finishers were:

  • 1st Place: Mervin Chan – $1,600,000
  • 2nd Place: Joseph Cabret – $1,000,000
  • 3rd Place: Patrik Antonius – $600,000

2014 Aussie Millions Poker Championship

After years of the nickname “Aussie Millions,” Crown gave in and officially changed the name of the event.

The name change was in part due to the feeling that it reflected the high roller aspects of the event.

The tournament took place from February 2nd to February 9th.

Phil Ivey won his second $250,000 buy-in event at the tournament. He beat 30 players to win $11,270,000. This was the first time rebuys were allowed.

The $100,000 saw Yevgeniy Timoshenko of Ukraine win $7,486,000 from the field of 47 competing in the event.

2014 Aussie Millions Poker Champion Ami Barer, Canadian Flag

Canadian Ami Barer won his first Aussie Millions Main Event. The tournament saw 668 players compete for a prize pool of $6,680,000. The buy-in was increased from $10,000 to $10,600.

The top three money finishers were:

  • 1st Place: Ami Barer – $1,600,000
  • 2nd Place: Sorel Mizzi – $1,000,000
  • 3rd Place: Jake Balsiger – $650,000

2015 Aussie Millions Poker Championship

2015 would see Phil Ivey win his second consecutive and third overall $250,000 buy-in event at the Aussie Millions.

He won $6,105,000 from the pool of 25 players. Not too bad for a second win.

The $100,000 challenge was won by Malaysia’s Richard Yong. He outlasted 70 others to win $6,860,000.

Australia’s Manny Stavropoulos took the Main Event pot. The prize pool was $6,480,000 and generated by 648 players.

The event took place from January 25th to February 1st.

Those who finished in the top three were:

  • 1st Place: Manny Stavropoulos – $1,385,500
  • 2nd Place: Lennart Uphoff – $1,214,500
  • 3rd Place: Joel Douaglin – $630,000

2016 Aussie Millions Poker Championship

The 2016 event took place from January 25th to 31st.

The $250,000 buy-in challenge was won by Steve O’Dwyer from the US. He beat 15 others to win the $3,920,000 prize.

The $100,000 buy-in event was won by Germany’s Fabian Quoss. He topped the field of 41 to win $4,018,000.

The Main Event saw Canadian Ari Engel edge out the 732 contestants. The prize pool was $7,320,000. For the first time, a woman finished in the top three.

The top three money finishers were:

  • 1st Prize: Ari Engel – $1,600,000
  • 2nd Prize: Tony Dunst – $1,000,000
  • 3rd Prize: Samantha Abernathy – $624,000

2017 Aussie Millions Poker Championship

A major change was made to the January 22nd through January 30th event in 2017. Due to the lack of interest in the $250,000 challenge, it was dropped from the event.

The $100,000 buy-in challenge was won by American Nick Petrangelo. 18 players vied for the $1,764,000 prize.

2017 Aussie Millions Poker Champion Shurane Vijayaram, 1st Place Ribbon

The Main Event saw 725 players try and win a piece of the $7,685,000 prize pool. Australian Shurane Vijayaram took the top prize.

The top three finishers were:

  • 1st Place: Shurane Vijayaram – $1,600,000
  • 2nd Place: Ben Heath – $1,000,000
  • 3rd Place: Tobias Hausen – $620,000

2018 Aussie Millions Poker Championship

The event took place from January 28th through February 4th.

The winner of the $100,000 buy-in challenge was Malaysia’s Michael Lim. He outlasted the field of 19 to win $1,862,000.

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The Main Event in 2018 was the largest field ever with 800 buy-ins. The prize pool was $8,000,000.

The winner was the UK’s Toby Lewis. He won $1,458,198.

The top three money finishers were:

  • 1st Place: Toby Lewis – $1,458,198
  • 2nd Place: Stefan Huber – $909,699
  • 3rd Place: Espen Solaas – $1,177,103

2019 Aussie Millions Poker Championship

2019 saw Aussie Millions run from January 28th through February 3rd.

The $100,000 buy-in tournament saw the second-highest participation ever with 42 buy-ins and a prize of $4,116,000. Cary Katz of the US won the tournament.

2019 Aussie Millions Poker Champion Bryn Kenney, Bag of Money

The Main Event broke a record in 2019. 822 buy-ins generated a prize pool of $8,220,000. The winner of the event was Bryn Kenney of the US.

The top three money finishers were:

  • 1st Place: Bryn Kenney – $1,272,598
  • 2nd Place: Mike Del Vecchio – $1,272,162
  • 3rd Place: Andrew Hinrichsen – $1,097,739

The 2019 event didn’t come down to a last-man-standing situation as is the case in most tournaments. After playing 109 hands, Kenney, Del Vecchio, and Hinrichsen made a deal to end play.

When the deal was made, Del Vecchio had more chips, but Kenney would only agree to the deal if he was declared the winner. Del Vecchio agreed if Kenney took a lower payout than the champion was entitled to, so it was agreed that Kenney would get the win and only $436 would divide the two’s purses.

Conclusion

The Aussie Millions Poker Championship has the sixth-largest prize pool in the world and is the largest south of the equator.

Among players, it has taken over the spot that Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker once held.

In addition to the $100,000 challenge and the Main Event, the competition has 25 additional lower buy-in events.

The event attracts the high rollers of poker and the poker elite and shows no signs of slowing down. The players from the Northern Hemisphere enjoy the January/February timeframe as it is summertime in the Southern hemisphere and makes for a great break from the Northern hemisphere’s wintery weather.

It’s also a nice warm-up for the upcoming World Series of Poker that takes place each May, giving players enough time to come back and play to win satellite games to win a spot in the Main Event.

I hope this history of the Aussie Millions Poker Championship has gotten you excited about 2020’s event, which runs from January 4 to January 24. The 2020 Aussie Millions promises to be even more thrilling and prestigious than ever!